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On the power and weakness of rational expectations: Logical fallacies, periodic bubbles and business cycles

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  • Gracia, Eduard

Abstract

A popular interpretation of the Rational Expectations/Efficient Markets hypothesis states that, if the hypothesis holds, then market valuations must follow a random walk. This postulate has frequently been criticized on the basis of empirical evidence. Yet the assertion itself incurs what we could call 'fallacy of probability diffusion symmetry': although market efficiency does indeed imply that the mean (i.e. expected) path must be a random walk, if the probability diffusion process is asymmetric then the observed path will most closely resemble not the mean but the median, which does not necessarily follow a random walk. To illustrate the implications, this paper develops an efficient markets model where the median path of Tobin's q ratio displays regular cycles of bubbles and crashes reflecting an agency problem between investors and producers. The model is tested against US market data, with results suggesting that such a regular cycle does indeed exist and is statistically significant. The aggregate production function in Gracia (Uncertainty and Capacity Constraints: Reconsidering the Aggregate Production Function, 2011) is then put forward to show how financial fluctuations can drive the business cycle by periodically impacting aggregate productivity and, as a consequence, GDP growth.

Suggested Citation

  • Gracia, Eduard, 2012. "On the power and weakness of rational expectations: Logical fallacies, periodic bubbles and business cycles," Economics Discussion Papers 2012-27, Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IfW).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ifwedp:201227
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Young, Alwyn, 1994. "Lessons from the East Asian NICS: A contrarian view," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 38(3-4), pages 964-973, April.
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Rational Expectations; efficient markets; financial bubbles; stock markets; booms and crashes; Tobin's q; business cycles; economic rents;

    JEL classification:

    • E22 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Investment; Capital; Intangible Capital; Capacity
    • E23 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Consumption, Saving, Production, Employment, and Investment - - - Production
    • E32 - Macroeconomics and Monetary Economics - - Prices, Business Fluctuations, and Cycles - - - Business Fluctuations; Cycles
    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates
    • G14 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Information and Market Efficiency; Event Studies; Insider Trading

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